BY TAYAH GRACE SWEDLUND Acting Senior Managing Editor
“You’re not going to a county college, wait, are you?!” I remember the first time I heard those words. My heart sank and I realized that others disagreed with what I saw as a smart decision for my future. For whatever reason, attending a county college wasn’t seen as an equivalent to the four-year schools my peers were attending.
Contrary to their point, County College of Morris empowers students in making prudent financial decisions and gives them the ability to gain valuable work experience, not to mention the personal attention afforded by the professors.
According to the Pew Research Center, “there’s a wider earnings gap between college-educated and less-educated Millennials compared with previous generations.”
Working towards a college degree is clearly important, equally so is the need to realize financial limitations and working towards choosing a university that will be feasible economically.
Emily Eddey, a CCM alumna, believes that the negative connotation associated with going to a county college is unfortunate but also a very prevalent reality.
“So I fought that and it definitely wasn’t easy or fun but it was so nice to be like ‘now I’m going to NYU’ and the only way I was able to do that was because [CCM] was so accredited and the profes- sors are there to stay with you and work with you,” Eddey said.
Her mentor, Professor Debra DeMattio, attended and received her associate degree at CCM and continued on to the College of St. Elizabeth where she received her bachelor’s degree, and Seton Hall University where she received her master’s. DeMattio is now working as an English professor.
“I think the idea of calling it a ‘junior college’ makes people think that it’s, you know, not as good as a four year institution,” DeMattio said. “I think it’s that whole ‘junior college’ thing. Or even calling it a community college.”
She fully disagreed with the idea that community colleges are not equal or up to the same standard as their four-year counterparts. Not only does CCM offer the same courses one would take at a four-year school, her students have demonstrated the same drive and passion for learning.
“I would say, by and large, I have had students that are very focused and dedi- cated,” DeMattio said. “The idea that there aren’t serious students here is a myth.”
While acknowledging this negative social stigma, DeMattio stressed the many benefits a two-year school offers, that four year schools neglect.
“I have had students come back and tell me they got a better education here than they did at some of the larger schools. You know, there was more personal attention here, to students, and it has always been that way, even when I was a student here. The teachers were always accessible,” De- Mattio said.
Eddey and DeMattio both acknowledged the financial benefits of attending a two-year college.
In Eddey’s case, this meant a world of difference financially. “By going to com- munity college and then going to NYU, I was able to save $108,000,” Eddey said.
This allowed her the opportunity to interactively explore different aspects of her field of study.
“Because I was spending such little money at school, I went to Savannah, GA and I got to do an externship at a broadcast station. I got to see what I wanted to do,” Eddey said.
Students are discovering the increasing importance of not only working to- wards a college degree, but also in making wise financial decisions regarding the expenses of tuition in today’s arduous fiscal climate.
“Economically, I think it’s a wise decision, and I would say that students have the opportunity to really get to know their professors; to allow their professors to get to know them, and to address their challenges but also shape their strengths and help them,” DeMattio said.
Community college also gives students the opportunity to engage in real life work environments, gaining valuable experience with their work study programs or with off campus employment.
DeMattio and Eddey both worked while attending classes at CCM.
“I got a lot of work experience, I managed a coffee shop,” Eddey said. “I think a community college allows you to do that more so than working at a four-year college.”
After completing her years of study at CCM and NYU, Eddey was able to find success at Light Iron, a post-production company located in Los Angeles. The company specializes in producing features for television and helps with other various aspects of the production process.
“I started at Light Iron when it was a small company and they were just starting out,” Eddey said. “I started liking what they were doing, and putting in the time, and I started staying late after my shift had ended, and just kind of learning the in’s and out’s of the company, and three years later, now I’m the executive producer.”
Her years at CCM gave her the clarity she needed to truly understand the kind of career she would pursue, and the expectations she would have to meet in such a rigorous work force.
“I look back at like 17-year-old me and I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I was able to kind of figure out something worth working towards while I was at community college,” Eddey said.
DeMattio mentored Eddey and helped shape her idea of what her future career goals were.
“I just knew there was something there and when a teacher sees something in a student, that makes all the difference,” DeMattio said.
DeMattio had helped Eddey during the college application process by writing a letter of recommendation and encouraged her to push forward in her education.
“DeMattio was just one example of a professor who was like ‘I see a lot in you, let’s try to get you into different schools’ and really worked with me,” Eddey said. “I always talk to people about how I had better professors at community college be- cause they cared more.”
CCM, and other two-year colleges, offer an environment where students are able to work with their professors, giving the feeling that, here, you are more than just a number.